Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Walk Off the Line...

This past week saw the release of a comic I co-created.  But, you will not see my name on the title anywhere.  Why?  Ah, that's a much longer story, dear reader.

Starting in September of 2014 I began laying-out a graphic novel I had taken over from a previous artist, who stayed on as co-writer, I'll call him Stan.  It was a passion project for me.  It had been dead in the water for years at the publisher I was working with, and I was happy to revive it.  Everyone on the team seemed extremely excited about bringing it to a December 2015 release.

So, away I went to work.  I layed-out 160 pages over 6 months (September 2014-March 2015), sending in regular chapter updates to the team upon completion (about one chapter every month).  After receiving no feedback for 6 months (not so much as a note from anyone on the team) I figured best to keep working as the print deadline would be tight.  I get it, folks schedules are packed no big, right?

After completing the final chapter, I waited.  No response.  From anybody.  Again, strange, so I reached out and asked what everyone thought.  Eventually I'm told I would receive notes within a week.  Great.  Guess I'll produce the wrap around cover.  No big.

Send in the thumbnail lay out for the cover a day or two later.  No communication for 4 days.  Okay, well, this needs to get done, so guess I'll ink and begin colouring it.  9 days later, and after a completed cover, notes for the image come in.  I politely tell the team I've already completed the cover, they should have contacted me earlier.  DRAMA!  The previous artist, Stan who stayed on as co-writer, calls the editor and by all accounts throws a fit.  Um, okay.  But, I mean, where was this communication 6 months ago when I was sending in layouts?  Anyway, I make a few edits, no problem-oh.

So, I'm still sitting on a mound of layouts awaiting notes.  2 weeks pass.  No notes.  I check in, 'they're coming.'

Alright, well, we are seriously running up against a crunch window as I have until the end of June to ink and colour 160 pages.  It's okay though, I'm inking them at print size.  It's saving me a boatload of time.  I ink 20 pages in the first 5 days of not hearing anything.  With my flatter cued up I'll have this book wrapped.

Notes come in.

Let me preface this by saying there was almost no money involved in this book.  An advance that wouldn't cover rent for more than 2 months.  And, having previously completed an OGN with the publisher, I knew the type of money I would be making upon release.  Very little.  But it was a passion project, I was completely invested.

Exactly 125 different edits, some of which range from simple scene re-blocking to large scale changes like previously agreed upon character designs and massive redraws of scenes and pages.  I mean, significant changes, forcing me to redraw dozens of pages.

I'm no Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, but I like to think I'm pretty good at this whole drawing comics-thing.  I've worked for DC and I've got a few books under my wing.  One of which I'm still seriously proud of.  And the material I had produced for this OGN, honestly, some of the most innovative and confidant work I've done to date.  I seriously didn't half-ass it, what I churned out was really good (honestly, I showed it to colleagues who agreed).

Anyway, so I review the notes.  I figure given the detail of the edits it's equivalent to 4 weeks of work.  For real.  Which is 4 unpaid weeks.  Remember, almost no money involved on this book (I received my share of the IP, but that was it).

I looked at the notes again, then I looked down at page 24, that I am just about to complete inking...and I put my pen down.

I lean back in my chair and reflect on the entire experience I've had to date on the book and with my publisher.

No communication for 6 months.

No feedback given in that time

The lack of money and recognition for work done involved

Complete lack of, what seems like, respect for my time and effort to date

So, I talk to some colleagues and advisors.  I reflect for hours.  The only feedback I've received on the book has come sporadically in the past 2 weeks, and most of it seems really negative.  The only way I could describe how I felt was if you've ever found yourself walking down a street and suddenly the world gets quiet and you know, you just know "shit, I have to get the hell out of here."  That's where I found myself.  So, with a heavy heart I called my editor:

"I've decided to walk away from the project"


"What?!  You can't!  Why?!?" exclaims my editor

I inquired about the sheer volume of edits I'd been given.  My editor, tells me the majority of the notes came from Stan, who everyone was waiting on.  Which confused me, as Stan had previously told me he didn't complete the book because he couldn't afford to.  So, here I am investing myself into the project, ignoring the lack of money involved, only to be told to do more unpaid work by the guy who wouldn't finish the book because there was no money involved.  I mean, that's confusing, right?

What it felt like, to me, was Stan was unable to see someone else's vision on the project.  I spoke to the other co-writer of the team, I'll call him Bob, and he verified this.  Which was also verified later by a colleague of Stan's.  I know, I'm just trying to illustrate that I'm not crazy.

So, a half dozen phone calls later, including a conference call with the editor-in-chief, everyone finally accepts I've left the book.

Honestly, I was heartbroken.  Mind throbbing, I needed to take a breath.

"So, Scott, is this the book that was released?"

Ha! Nope.  The story isn't over yet.

Bob and I had been told by our editor, who I'll call Steve (someone I deeply care for and respect, just so we're clear), in September 2013 he wanted us to co-create a book and bring it to him.  Something in the 4-6 issue range.  Maybe turn it into an ongoing.  Cool.  I liked Bob's work and, at the time, was enjoying my time with my publisher.  I just had a book cancelled and was hungry to get another series off the ground.  So, for the better part of 2 months Bob and I co-create a story.  We come up with a real fun vision.  We plot it and develop tones and characters and so on.  We're having fun.

Anyway, we pitch it and get the greenlight in early 2014.  We collectively agree to focus on the OGN after I take a personal sabbatical between February-August 2014 (plus I have to draw Batman '66!  Boom!).

So, this series is greenlit.  Then all the OGN drama happens and I walk.  I tell everyone I'm still committed to the series, but after this experience I do express being wary of jumping in too quickly.  Seriously, the wind had been stripped from my sails.

A few months go by and I start thinking about the project and honestly have no warmth for it anymore.  My previous experiences with my publisher left me feeling a little bummed.

I get the opportunity to work on Batman '66 again to take my mind off it.  Amazing experience, best I've ever been treated in the industry.

So 2015 wraps up and I haven't spoken to my editor, publisher or Bob since leaving the OGN.  I figure we'll have to talk soon and I'll need to tell them I'm not coming back to the greenlit series.

At this point, I have decided to turn my attention elsewhere.  Working a different creator-owned angle.  I'm filled with passion and fire.  It's great.  I have a work schedule and milestones I need to hit.

So, I hit a major work milestone on my project.  A big one.

I sit in my chair and sigh a deep breath.  Kind of proud.  "Damn, I can't believe I did that." I think

I immediately peek in on ComicsAlliance.com to see what's happening in industry.

First article I see...

Bob announcing our project.  "Wait, what?"  I read on.  Another artist is listed as co-creator.  "Wait, what?"

I call my editor.  Voicemail.

"Steve, I just found this article about the release of  *Series Title* we really need to talk. *click*"

30 minutes later he calls.

"Hey, man, what's going on?" he says.
"Uh, so *Series Title* is solicited?  You know I'm the co-creator, right?" I say.  
"Yeah, but you walked away" he says
"No, I walked away from the OGN, I never said anything about walking away from this" I respond
"Okay, what do you want me to say?" he asks
"This was a creator-owned book.  I co-created it, how can you publish it without contacting me?  Will I be listed as co-creator?" I ask
"No.  I'm not prepared to do that.  I can't do that."  He claims
"But, it's a creator-owned book.  I'm the co-creator."  I exclaim

Anyway, this is a Coles notes of the conversation, but you see where it's going.  We end the call and Steve calls Bob.

I sit for a moment and reflect.  Given my past experience on the OGN (and some very sketchy decisions made on my previous work there) I thought "...had they asked I probably would have given my blessing to another artist.  But I still should be listed as co-creator."  I wait.

Steve calls back with Bob on the phone and we discuss the project.  Bob says literally nothing the entire call.  Steve apologizes but reiterates I left the book.  "I didn't" I stress.

Anyway, 20 minutes go by and I continue to push for a co-creator credit.  No budging.  Finally I realize it's time to go.  I tell them I wish they had handled it differently and lets end things here.

And that is where I left it.  Honestly, I'm hurt by how I was treated and how the entire situation was handled, but I am grateful it happened.  And especially when it did.  It was the validation I needed to realize my current creator-owned project is a better direction for me and my work.

As I sat working at my desk this past week I decided to take a break and go to the comic shop with my daughter to get her some new books.  The series I co-created with Bob sat on the shelf and reminded me of the pain I experienced with it.  A sincere reminder of what my life used to look like.

I only share this story in the hope it helps illuminate the experience creators and creatives sometimes go through in creating the art they love.

I've really struggled with whether or not to share this story.  For months.  I've told a few close friends and colleagues, but I was never sure I should share it.  I know the way some folk respond to honest and raw experiences such as this.  Just so we're crystal clear, I'm not complaining or bemoaning or any of that baloney.  I'm much happier on the trajectory I now find myself on.  I hope, more than anything, my experience will help teach new or, for that matter, old creatives and artists they do have options.  Sometimes walking away is your most powerful ally.  Don't feel you ever need stay in a situation that is not providing your basic needs.  You are aloud to walk.  And in my case, what I walked to is far, far more fulfilling.

Love to you all, keep the faith yo!

Scott Kowalchuk

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Wyatt Family! Follow the Buzzards, Baby!

Well, hello there.  So, I’ve been felled by Bilateral Pneumonia for the past 8 weeks (…for real? Just adding that up, yikes!).  Anyway, so I’ve finally regained my strength and energy and decided to celebrate by drawing the WYATT FAMILY!  Yup, while laying horizontal, sick I stumbled across them and have now begun watching wrestling again after 15 years.  *Tear* it’s like finding a long lost love…

Friday, October 10, 2014

Batman '66 #17 or Dreams DO Come true...

Okay, yes, I'm drawing and colouring Batman '66 #17 for DC Comics....!

This is where I find myself: Living the dream, baby!  As a munchkin there were few things I loved more in life than curling up and watching the Adam West BATMAN TV Show.  I mean, sure, that led well into my late 20s, but thats another story.  1966's Batman inspired my entire illustration aesthetic, as my school-chums and instructors can attest to.  I always wondered "...how can I include Adam West or Batman in this assignment?" -- and in many cases I triumphed!  Hazzuh!

But, as time passed I realized I couldn't just draw '66 Batman, mostly because there was no book or series being published focusing on it.  Well, thanks to the fine folks at DC Comics that book now does exist.  And with a wink-and-nod to Jeff Parker and Jim Chadwick I find myself fulfilling the dream of my munchkin-self and drawing the Adam West Batman.  Professionally.  I know, pretty great, right?

I've been a quite a journey, and I still find it unbelievable working on something I so longed to do.  But here I am.

So, I decided to dive in and show you folks some of the Bat 66 work I've assembled over the years in chasing my dream:

In my fourth year of study at the Alberta College of Art and Design I had the idea for a drawn history of the making of the Batman TV Show.  c2008

Then I had an idea to do an animated version of the show. c2009

Then college ended, and I started drawing comic books professionally.  Occasionally folks would ask for a Batman commission...well, there was only ever one Batman important enough to me to draw.  So, anytime anyone asked they got Adam West Batman.  That's how I roll, baby!  c2010-2013

Then any extra time I found for working in my sketchbook...yup, mostly just turned into a stroll down Bat-Lane. c2010-2011

And that brings me to now!  A deeply trusted friend & colleague mentioned to Jeff Parker BATMAN '66 was my dream job, which got Jeff and I talking.  Amazing, right?  Obviously I had to provide some test-work to ensure I could recreate actors likenesses...well, can I really call this work?

I always loved John Astin's RIDDLER! And while he doesn't appear in the series, he does in this test work I sent to Jeff,  Jim Chadwick and Aniz Ansari.

So, that's a snapshot, dear friends and neighbours, of my dream to draw Batman.  I'm so thankful to be here and having been able to experience this!

Keep your eyes opened for the digital version being released through Comixology soon, and the print issue available November 26, 2014 (the same month the TV Series is released on DVD and Blu-Ray!).  

Keep an eye trained for this cover (from the entirely too talented Mike & Laura Allred!  The bestest people in comics!).  Yeah, I got to draw and colour King Tut, my fave villain from the show!

Thanks all, what a ride this has been!

Scott K

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

DOWN SET FIGHT Digital Covers....

Okay, so I'm swamped at the moment.  Lots of juggling of projects, which should result in some pretty terrific material for you wieners to read later this year or early next.

So, I want everyone to buy/read DOWN SET FIGHT I love it, and it seems like folks who have read it do too.  I'm going to try and make and post some new images for the book as I'm a little bummed the book hasn't done triple SAGA sales.  You know, something totally reasonable.  Though I have sold out of my copies at both Conventions I've been to this year.

Anyway, lets get started with posting the full line of digital covers.  #5 was my favourite solely for the fact I drew DOGPOUND again.  Aw, DP.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

DOWN SET FIGHT! Behind the scenes...

So, as if you didn't already know, today marks the release of DOWN SET FIGHT!  Hurray!  Hazzuh!  And the like...!  Of all my work to date this is the one I am most fond of.  Having looked through the TPB I realized it was so packed full of story we weren't able to include any of development work.  Oh, boy, chumps and chumpettes are you in for it now.

Here it comes, a post specially dedicated to some of the behind-the-scenes work I did leading up to the production of DSF.

The first time I was contact about the book was late 2010 -- Editor-man Charlie Chu and I had been discussing about finding me a home at ONI (thanks again, Charlie, you're the best!).  After batting a few pitches back and forth he sent me what was the initial pitch for DOWN SET FIGHT! from Chris Sims and Chad Bowers.  To ensure the union would be solid I was asked to develop some character sketches and tackle (pun! Boooo!) audition pages (which I've just discovered have been lost to the ravages of time).

Now, bear in mind, this was even prior to the release of my first book THE INTREPIDS so you'll quickly notice the difference in refinement.  First up the original design for FEARLESS himself:

Obviously, I've done some professional growing.  Still, bare-chested Chuck!  Ow!

Then I took a run a Al Fairlane -- gang all agreed he was WAY too Get Carter Michael Caine.  Still, I tried to keep some of that in the final design:

With a quick revision, we landed on something everyone agreed on:

Seriously, I cannot believe how much I've grown artistically since these.

Then came, Molly.  I think the inspiration for her is pretty obvious.  At least, I think it is.

So long ago.  I adored Molly.  I love books with a tough female lead -- it was nice getting to include so much of her!

Then came Crockett.  This one never really evolved.  We all liked the original design:

Early on I had no clue how flippin' hard it was going to be to have a regular sized fellah interacting with a bunch of giant-headed assholes.  I soon learned.

Jumbo was our next big mascot reveal.  I initially tried the smaller head to try and draw some parallell to the Rhino in Spidey books (trying to attract some more of the mass reading audience).  Thankfully, Charlie suggested a larger head, which I think was a better move.

Then along came Barclay the Bear.  Seriously, the whole team is so proud of that chapter.  Such a terrific fight!

I don't know why Jumbo was a midget in these drawings...?

Now came who would become my fave character in the book, Dogpound & the Sudden Death Squad.  I played around with some seriously crappy designs to begin with:

I don't think I even sent these to the team for review.  I was toying around with the numbers on their faces counting down to ":01" -- impossibly lame regardless.

Then something happened:

I learned how to draw.  *swish*  I loved the muzzled Dogpound, Charlie pointed out he looked an awful lot like Dark Knight Rises Bane.  He was of course right.  But, a quick revision:

Boom!  Still my favourite character design to date.  Kept the muzzle and made him more dog-like.  Yeah, I'm a little proud of me.  Oh, and did I mention the evolution of his logo:

Please accept my apologies world at large.  Ah, screw it.  You deserve it.

This all led up to the big showdown of the final chapter.  Dozens of mascot, most of which I designed on page, but some required a little planning.

But first, was Big Fight Chuck:

For months I actually tried to contact someone at ADIDAS to try an get some corporate sponsorship for the book.  Sadly, I had to abandon the pursuit after getting no response.  The logo never appears, but, man, do I wish it did.

Al needed a new suit for the fight too.  I dropped the long jacket and the gloves in the end, but still:

Then came SuperBall.  I adore this jerk:

And that's pretty much all worth sharing.  I hope everyone tying into these has read and enjoyed the living hell out of the book.  Beginning to end, this was the most fun I've had drawing comics to date, and I cannot fully express how proud I am of Chris, Chad, Josh & Charlie.  Great team, great fun!  Thanks to everyone involved!  And to you for buying and reading... DOWN SET FIGHT!